The dangers of slipping and falling during the cold months are ever-present in many places in Missouri. This is especially true on public walkways where ice can quickly accumulate in front of commercial buildings, such as stores and restaurants.
But when a person slips and is hurt on these entryways, can a business owner be held liable for failing to clear the ice?
Business owners have a duty of care to their patrons who visit their establishments. This duty requires them to ensure that the grounds of their properties are reasonably safe, including the walkways.
The duty extends to those who enter their businesses as well as passers-by who use those walkways that are within the public’s right-of-way. Breach of this duty occurs when the owner fails to address a hazard within a reasonable time or at all.
Entryways to a business are typically used by business invitees for the financial benefit of the business owner. These invitees include customers, clients, and other business owners.
Business owners owe the highest duty of care to this class of visitors. As such, if a business owner is open for business and is expecting customers, the business owner must ensure that the entryway is free of ice. If not, they can be held liable for damages resulting from the slip and fall.
Uninvited guests — or trespassers — are generally owed no duty of care when they trespass on a business owner’s property. However, there are instances when a business owner may be held liable for the damages of trespassers who slipped on an icy entryway into their business, such as when:
- The owner used the ice to purposefully cause injury with a slip-and-fall trap
- The owner knew the trespasser was present and knew or should have known about the icy entryway and failed to remedy the hazard
- The business owner knew or should have known that the trespasser always entered a limited part of the property and failed to remedy known ice buildup
Because a trespasser can potentially collect damages, it’s always a good idea for business owners to clear their entryways of ice or any other slippery material.
Ice can cause falls that lead to terrible injuries and even death. Victims and their families entitled to sue can seek considerable damages, such as compensation for medical bills, lost wage replacement, pain and suffering compensation, and even punitive damages in some instances.
In many cases, the business owner’s general insurance will cover the damages. However, insurance companies typically put up a fight to pay less for claims. Victims need an experienced attorney to fight for the damages they deserve.
If you have slipped and fallen on a patch of ice in front of an establishment in Missouri, you may be entitled to damages for the losses you may have suffered. An experienced slip and fall lawyer can evaluate your case and recommend the best path forward.